Dawson City, Yukon Friday, August 18, 2000

The Yukon Lou (inset) ships out on her reborn maiden voyage. See story below. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Yukon Lou to Sail Again
Tourism Still Down in Dawson, but Holding Steady
Mayor Tells Chamber He is Tired of Rumours
Communities in Bloom Visits Dawson
2nd Annual Klondike Motorcycle Run to Dawson City
"Tribute to the Miner" to be Dedicated
Strait's Restoration Under Way
Walking Across Canada
An Evening with Some Odd People
Another Dempster Travels the Yukon
Dawson Business Profile: Gold City Tours
Dawson Business Profile: The Fashion Nugget
North Returns to Jack London Centre
Uffish Thoughts: Weird Tales from the Dawson Summer of 2000

Welcome to the August 18th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our 28 page Aug 15th hard copy edition. Wish we could share everything, but getting a subscription (see our home page) is the only way you'll ever see it all. Approximately 250 people viewed our last on-line issue.

Yukon Lou to Sail Again

by Dan Davidson

It's been over a year now since the Little Birch Cabin on Front Street was boarded up, over a year since the Yukon Lou sank in the Yukon River and was hauled back to her winter berth by her owners.

That sad phase of the 72 year old vessel's life came to an end on August 10, when it sailed once again.

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in's business arm, Chief Isaac Inc., has purchased the 52 foot river boat from its owners, Scott and Robbie McManus and is relaunching the boat's career as a river cruise vessel on Thursday with a trip down to Pleasure Island, where Yukon River Tours used to hold daily salmon barbecues.

The Yukon Lou was built in 1928 in Whitehorse and was used as an open cargo craft (or barge) by the RCMP until some time in the 1940's. after which it was a commercial freight boat for nearly 20 years.

In 1969 it was purchased by the enterprising Captain Dick Stevenson, founder of Pleasure Island, the Sourdough Cocktail, and numerous other money making propositions over the years. He turned it into a tour boat and ran it until the early 1990s.

The McManuses took over the operation after Stevenson, and rebuilt the boat in 1996, complete with a new engine and new electronics. But something went wrong during the seasonal maintenance they had contracted for in 1999, and the boat foundered on its maiden voyage, and had to be towed back.

Chief Isaac's Bev Mitchell indicated that there was nothing structurally wrong with the boat and that it had dried out well since then. There was work to be done to get it river worthy again, but that has been completed this week. It passed marine inspection the week before it sailed.

For this season Chief Isaac is just going to run the river tour and meal, but Chief Isaac has hired Freda Roberts to oversee the operation and design a program of activities more in keeping with First Nation themes.

"Next summer it will be run differently," Mitchell said. "Freda's got an amazing number of ideas."

Mitchell doesn't want to put forward a program that overlaps First Nation businesses already active here and elsewhere.

"We're trying to work things so that a visitor could come up here and have a package which would include Tommy's (Taylor) Fishwheel Charters and Ancient Voices and what we're doing. We don't want to be repeating something that's already being offered to the visitors."

Pleasure Island will probably get a new name as well. It's actual map name is Little Moosehide, but Mitchell doesn't think that will be the choice for a tourism promotion.

One of the possible contributions the reconstituted business might make is to use the Little Birch Cabin on Front Street as a ticket outlet for a variety of things that are going on in Dawson.

"We could be the central ticket agent."

Market research conducted by Chief Isaac with the help of the Klondike Visitors Association and the YTG's local Industry Services officer indicated that there were two voids in Klondike market.

"One of them was a central ticket agency and the other was a First Nations component. There is some programming here but not enough. That is something that out visitors want to able to partake in.

"With Pleasure Island," Mitchell said, "we have the ability to fill both these voids."

The Yukon Lou had its matron voyage on Thursday, August 10, with a full complement of guests and media in attendance. It can carry up to fifty passengers along with two crew.

top.gif

Tourism Still Down in Dawson, but Holding Steady

by Dan Davidson

As Klondike National Historic Sites begins to process its figures for the summer, the results are proving to be somewhat mixed. Figures for the month of July won't be ready for a week or so, but the June figures plus the indications from observations in July show this summer as being down in numbers about 14%.

This is similar to results from other sources which were reported here a month ago, which indicates that things are holding steady.

Month end figures for June show visitor entry as being 11,025, down just over 2,000 from 1999 at the same time in the summer.

On the other hand, observations by KNHS staff continue to indicate just what has been said here over the last month by other sources, that the season seemed to be 10 days to 2 weeks late getting up to speed this summer and that late June through July was fairly normal in terms of tourist activity.

"It's actually better than I had thought it might be," says Rose Margeson, Manager of Heritage Presentation and Visitor Services at KNHS. The initial slow start made her think the year might be down as much as 20%.

Margeson cites a number of factors that could have made for a really low summer in her experience. The price of gasoline is a factor, she says. She's hearing that some people and some tours just cancelled their travel plans once the price started climbing.

This is also an election year in the United States, where much of our tourist traffic originates, and the people who visit Dawson, whether on buses or in RVs, tend to be of that socioeconomic class which takes its politics seriously. There are summer leadership conventions for both the Republicans and Democrats in July and August.

Another factor is the weather, which has not been good for an organization which plans a lot of outdoor events. Particularly hard hit this summer has been the Robert Service Show at the cabin on Eighth Avenue. There is now an in-door alternative on Front Street and people have been using it to stay out of the rain.

Visits to the Robert Service Cabin are down 46% this year over last year though there has been a marked decline since 1993, which was a peak year in the 90s. By 1995, the first year that the Service performance became stopped being free, visitors dropped off from 11,685 to 9826, and the number has dropped off each year since, except for the boom year of 1998, when visitor entry itself peaked at 50,816.

KNHS develops its statistics based on three key sites in town: the cabin, Dredge #4 and the Gaslight Follies. There are actually seven sites that are monitored, including the Old Post Office on King Street, the Bear Creek Complex, Discovery Claim, and five types of walking tours that are offered.

Everything is down this summer except for the Commissioner's Afternoon Tea program at the Residence, which is up 7%.

Margeson is still optimistic about the summer as a whole.

"July is usually our busiest month," she says.

At Dredge #4, which is one site where the crew keeps really competitive stats, July figures are already over last June's and are expected to break the 11,000 mark.

top.gif

Mayor Tells Chamber He is Tired of Rumours

by Dan Davidson

Glen Everitt is tired of rumours and misinformation being circulated regarding the City of Dawson's various capital works projects, especially those connected with recreation facilities upgrades.

That is why Dawson's mayor appeared at the most recent monthly meeting of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce with documents for everyone. The project which is closest to completion, for which all the tenders have been let and the budget is fixed is the swimming pool replacement.

Everitt provided exterior elevation drawings, an interior schematic and two pages of spreadsheet budgetary figures to all in attendance at the meeting.

"There is actually a real (bank) account there," he told the dozen or so people at the meeting, "and we actually do have two point something million dollars in the bank which was given to us by Piers Macdonald (the NDP government leader) last fall.

"Some people seem to have forgotten that we got that. We're not spending money we don't have. There was a reserve established for the pool based on an agreement with the territorial government."

Everitt explained that his June 1 announcement of a July 1 pool use date had been based on his misunderstanding of how the pool shell was to be installed. He noted that he had corrected himself on the same radio station two days later, on June 3, but that hardly anyone who heard the original announcement seems to have heard the second.

"I've been trying to stress to the public that we can't build these facilities without disrupting the service that was there, but some people can't accept it. Council is moving ahead because we can't avoid it."

The old pool, it should be noted, had been placed on notice by health inspectors on an annual basis over the last 15 years, and was constantly under threat of being closed each spring.

The new pool will be larger than the old in surface area, being four lanes rather than three. It will not have a really deep end, Everitt told the chamber, but that was the compromise that the user groups accepted in order to get the extra lane. He reminded the chamber that there were many meetings and surveys over a number of years to collect the public input that went into the pool's eventual design.

The new pool will be completely enclosed and will extend the swimming season by at least a month on either end. The season has been the first week in June to the third week in August, so that will be a substantial change.

When the time comes that Dawson can afford to run a pool year round, the building can be upgraded for that with a minimum of expense.

This year the pool will open in September and will be open for use through some of October.

"I would really ask that if people hear rumours they would just tell those people to come to the City and ask. I know, too, that because it's an election year there are even more (rumours)than there would normally have been about how badly council is buggering these projects up."

There are four communities in the Yukon which are working on recreation centre projects under agreements reached with the former territorial government and ratified by the new one. Everitt says that Dawson is the only community which has actually made progress on its projects in anything like the timetable originally stipulated when the money was pledged.

"We're (also) the only ones that get a payment plan and didn't get all the money up front."

top.gif

Communities in Bloom Visits Dawson

by Dan Davidson


This rock garden along the dyke in Dawson was given high marks by the Communities in Bloom panel when it visited here recently. It is known by city staff as "Norm's Hump", after Norm Carlson, the Superintendent of Public Works. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dawson should never pave its streets and should keep its boardwalks, according to a panel of two judges from the national Communities in Bloom program.

The judges, Len Stanley from Toronto and David Urquhart from Fredericton, toured the community. looking at public spaces as well as businesses and private properties. During their recent swing through the Yukon they also visited Dawson City fir the first time and were, according to Mayor Glen Everitt, impressed by what they saw.

The attraction for Dawson in being involved in a program like this is the potential for marketing and national exposure which comes with the program.

The judges are looking not just at developed gardens but at the existence of parks and that use of green space within a community.

"I've been trying to register Dawson for 3 years," Everitt told a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The judges, Len Stanley from Toronto and David Urquhart from Fredericton, toured the community. looking at public spaces as well as businesses and private properties.

One of the benefits of being involved in Communities in Bloom is that the panel will provide the City of Dawson with an evaluation of how people are using their land and make suggestions as to how it might be used better.

"They make a report, and the report gives an idea of what we can do, or what we are doing. There are a few benefits for our recreation staff."

Everitt says that initial indications are that Dawson will be getting a high rating for a community in its size range.

Of some surprise to Everitt was their reaction to the rock garden / access road which leads to one of the sewer inspection covers on top of the dyke. This is known to many locally as "Norm's Hump", a reference to Norm Carlson, the town's superintendent of public works.

Stanley and Urquhart called this project, a joint effort by the city and the Klondyke Centennial Society, one of the nicest projects they've seen and gave it the highest rating in town.

Everitt was pleased by this since he says he has taken some flak by people who felt the project was a waste of money.

Dawson is now registered in the regional competition and will be judged annually from here on.

The committee strongly recommended that Dawson should never pave its streets, should keep its wooden sidewalks and should not trim the foxtails which grow between the boards. There are more than a few locals who would take issue with those sentiments.

"It will be interesting to read the rationale for those statements," said Everitt, who is looking forward to seeing the report when it comes.

top.gif

2nd Annual Klondike Motorcycle Run to Dawson City

July 14-16, 2000

by Loire Passmore


Biker Loire Passmore shows off her enjoyment of the sport. Photo by Tara McCauley

It began as a gathering of bikers, mostly from Whitehorse and Juneau, about 4 years ago. A reunion of distant friends joining together for a weekend of fun and games, and lots of cheer. Organized then by Brad Moody and Bill Knight, who have both moved away from Dawson (unfortunately for us), about 3 years past. It is also very unfortunate that many of our good friends from Juneau and Whitehorse have been unable to attend the past 2 years. I hope they may return at some time down the road as they are truly missed by myself and many others here.

Bill Knight came to me before his departure and asked me to take over the organization of this gathering to ensure the great times for these Northern Bikers who come here, some from a great distance, to celebrate. I decided to name this event, officially, and The Klondike Run is becoming more recognized every year by bikers of the Yukon and Alaska. We are hoping, and I believe we have opened the minds of many people in our community, to show that these bikers who come here are not "bad people".

We held bike games on the streets down town, which were a great success. They were visible to tourists and locals. Everyone was welcomed to watch and enjoy the good times, and also to learn about us, our fun, and our enthusiasm for riding.

In our next year's program we are planning to hold a Toy Run or the likes, to raise money and donations to be distributed to families or those who may be less fortunate or in need at Christmas time. Also, if we can get enough participation, there is a Canada-wide Ride for Sight in June to raise money for eye cancer research.

I am confident that the Klondike Run will grow bigger and better every year, and I hope that our local bikers (there are quite a few) will all be able to spare some time in order to attend on this weekend in future years.

Although the turnout was a little smaller than I had expected, everyone who was here had an excellent weekend!

The support we received this year was VERY much appreciated. A great big THANKS to everyone who helped to make it a success. The City of Dawson bent over backwards to accommodate us with our camping area and our bike games. Thank you very much, Haine and Nancy Wing and Dale at the Midnight Sun Hotel, and Duncan Spriggs, Abby, Anna Mae at the Westminster Hotel. Thanks to Melody Caywood at the Hair Cabaret, Tony Chen at China Village Restaurant, Sharon at the Triple J Hotel, Paul at the Washhouse, and Elaine at the Giftbox, for donating gift certificates. Thanks also to Bill & Helen for firewood, Caveman Bill for chickens, Peter Maxwell for tubs and lumber, John for his help throughout the weekend, and congrats on the gold nugget Poker Run prize. Big thanks to Denis Carriere who set up the T.P., the tents, cut up all the firewood, and put up with my stress throughout. xxoo thanx babe. And last but not least, Trent Kindrachuk for helping me coordinate this year's run, building our weenie bite stand and bingo cage, as well as showing a great enthusiasm and having many excellent ideas. I can't thank you all enough!

I look forward to next year's 3rd Annual Klondike Run and the continual support from our community and local businesses. And remember - the Run is open to all motorcyclists, not just Harley riders.

Until we meet again,
Ride Safe,
Loire Passmore

P.S. As the price of gas rises, I have noticed a growing number of motorcyclists on our streets. Drivers, please be aware and bikers please be cautious and be seen! Most accidents with motorcycles happen because the driver of the motor vehicle did not see you. Share the road and be safe.

top.gif

"Tribute to the Miner" to be Dedicated

by Dan Davidson


The maquette for Halin de Repentigny's "Tribute to the Miner" is currently on display at the Klondyke Centennial Society's headquarters. Photo by Dan Davidson

The notion of a statue to commemorate the Klondike Gold Rush has been in the air for some time now. An early proposal for a series of monuments met with little enthusiasm in Dawson, where it was felt that a statue should reflect more of the local experience and less of the rush theme.

It's taken some years to get a project that met local approval, but Dawson's "Tribute to the Miner" will be unveiled on Front Street over the Discovery Days weekend. The project has been spearheaded by the Klondyke Centennials Society.

The statue is the creation of local artist Halin de Repentigny whose design was selected in a competition. It features the bronze figure of a miner working a metal rocker box, mounted on a concrete base. It will be two metres from the bottom of the base to the top of the figure.

Each year a "miner of the year" will be chosen and that name added to a plaque on the base of the monument.

In addition to the statue, de Repentigny will be creating a 20 by 8 foot mural to reflect the development of Dawson City from before the Gold Rush until the present day. This will be on the side of the present Klondyke Centennial Society building on Third Avenue.

There will also be a time capsule buried near the monument containing items which represent today's Dawson City.

The "Tribute to the Miner" will be unveiled and dedicated on Saturday, August 20 at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

Financial support for these projects has come from the Canadian Millennium Partnership Project, the Yukon Millennium Fund, the Yukon Economic Development Department's Community Development Fund, the Klondyke Centennial Society and the City of Dawson.

top.gif

Strait's Restoration Under Way

by Dan Davidson


The Guns and Ammo Building is straighter than it has been in years, propped up by supports under the second story windows while work begins underneath. Photo by Dan Davidson

Those who have been watching anxiously to see what was to become of Strait's Auction House (better known as the Guns and Ammo Building) might have wondered if nature had not taken its course last month when what was left of the roof disappeared. After all, gravity is a law which that building has been defying for years.

No such thing, however, according to Don Cox of Northern Metallic, who took ownership of the structure last summer with the promise to fix it up. The remainder of the roof, he said, was posing a danger to the crew he had working inside the derelict, getting it ready for the first stage of repairs.

Sure enough, when you peeked through the vacant windows, you could see that steroid enhanced spiders had been at work inside, lacing the interior together with beams and cross members.

"We're going to raise the building," Cox says, "raise it, straighten it, and prepare a new sub-structure for the building."

In layman's terms they're going to put a new foundation under it. The activity at Straits will be less mechanical than earlier in the summer with the Masonic Lodge because Cox's people are certain that there's not enough support material in the Yukon to hold the poor thing together if they were to try to move it into the street.

When it came to it, they ended up straightening it first, with blocks and jacks elevating the walls just under the front bay windows while cables pulled from the side to lend stability.

The bottom portion of the walls don't seem likely to take the strain either, seem more likely to rip off and try to stay grounded. So they're going to cut that part away and lift the rest about a metre so they can work underneath it.

"We're not going to get in there with a lot of machinery. It's all going to be hand work."

The front facade will actually be separated from the rest of the building and reattached once the lifting, twisting and straightening is complete.

Two physical things have slowed the project down this summer, according to Cox. First, they were waiting for all the frost to leave the ground under the building. They finally decided they didn't have that long to wait. In addition, the unusual amount of rain in Dawson this summer has made it difficult to work in the unsheltered interior.

The third thing is the slow state of the economy, which had trimmed Cox's financial resources somewhat.

"I don't have the resources to put a big crew of people in there and make a big flash and crash at getting this thing all done this summer. It's doing to be at least a two year project."

This summer will see work on the external structure. "We're going to concentrate on things like weatherproofing the roof so we won't have any more intrusion of water inside. We want to get the drainage away from the building, so the water doesn't sit in that corner there.

"It's a delicate old brute and it does want to answer to the call of gravity, but we've got her."

That's just to salvage the building and preserve the outside. As for what happens inside, Cox is still mulling over a variety of options, which do have to include some kind of historical interpretation under the terms of his agreement with the Klondike Visitors Association.

top.gif

Walking Across Canada

by Tara McCauley


The newlyweds pose with Justice of the Peace Lisa Hutton. Photo by Tara McCauley

Dave Allison is walking across Canada. From Caledonia, Ontario, Dave is accompanied by his now wife (they got married in Dawson), Sandy, she drives the motor home and does everything else while he walks. Taking a year of absence from their jobs as a Re/max real estate agents, they left from Cape Spear, Newfoundland on January 11th. During the course of their journey Dave will walk in every province and territory with the exception of Nunavut. He also plans on sticking his feet in every ocean, Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic.

"When we first talked about doing this, their was no question that we wouldn't come north. Many people do cross country trips from Halifax to Vancouver but that's not the whole country."

From Cape Spear, he walked down through the Eastern Provinces into Quebec and Ontario, where he reached Point Pelée Park, an island in Lake Erie and the most southern inhabited point in Canada. He reached Winnipeg on June 27th, after 5777 km.

His projected finish date is sometime in December so for the second half, they decided to do the inverse. Dave and Sandy drove to Inuvik, flew to Tuk so he could dip his feet in the Arctic. They left Inuvik in the late afternoon on July 6th down the Dempster highway and arrived in Dawson on July 24th. They would have gotten here sooner but they were stuck at the NWT/Yukon border for a day due to a snowstorm.

Dave and Sandy, who have been together for 10 years now, started talking about getting married a month ago. They had been to Dawson in 1992 and 1994 and loved it. So they decided this was the place. On July 26th, they were married at the Commissioner's Residence by Justice of the Peace, Lisa Hutton. Their witnesses were Greg and Suzanne Brown, a couple who have been cycling across Canada and who the Allison's have come across several times. After honeymooning in a gravel pit in West Dawson, they started out on the July 27th over the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska/Yukon border (the most westerly point in Canada).

Why are they doing this? Well you can get an idea from their license plate, which reads "2C_CND_A". But aside from the great feeling of nationalism that the Allison's share, it was a personal challenge and Millennium Project.

Everyday, they leave a time capsule. In a film canister, they put their business cards with a message on the back. Dave's has the present day's date and reads "Started from Cape Spear January 2000 in an attempt to walk across Canada for Canada." Sandy's is more of a inspirational message: "Take the first step to your dream today. Our best to you in all you do."

From every area they've taken something of significance. From Quebec, it was a maple leaf, from Nova Scotia, a piece of coal and PEI, a vial of its famous red soil. From the Yukon it's a collection of wild flowers.

Dave, who is on his third pair of shoes and 40 lb. lighter says averages about 40 km a day. What they've been most impressed by is the people they've encountered in their travels. Although they are not sponsored, they certainly are not looking for handouts but have found that people have been very generous and will not be refused. The Allison's have been brought breakfast on the route, they've been invited into people's homes for meals and given places to stay.

Sandy says, "People are wonderful. All over the place, they've opened their hearts to us."

Dave adds, "I'm more aware of the dimensions of Canada and I want to encourage people to travel more in their own country."

From Dawson, it's on to Whitehorse then down the Stewart-Cassiar Highway to Prince Rupert, where Dave will stick his feet in the Pacific Ocean, then it will to be eastward to Winnipeg, where they hope to finish before Christmas.

top.gif

An Evening with Some Odd People

by Dan Davidson


Sally Clark reads from her plays. Photo by Dan Davidson

One of the duties of the Berton House writer in residence is to encourage literary doings in Dawson by presenting his or her own work, and perhaps cajoling a few locals to join in.

For would-be poets and story tellers this means a reading, but when the writer in residence is a playwright, like Sally Clark, the event becomes a Dramatic reading.

Community librarian Kim Adams takes the helm in organizing these events, and has been spreading them around to all the establishments which could offer both space and sustenance. So there have been readings at such places as Sammi's, Bombay Peggy's and Klondike Kate's. For mid-July it was the turn of the Rio Grill, the newly reopened take-out spot (with deck, of course) on Front Street, where it has enjoyed a succession of incarnations over the last 20 years.

This reading was an opportunity for the would-be thespians among us and, while it was a reading rather than an acting out of the scripts, it was no less enjoyable for all that.

Sally Clark was joined at the front by Kim Adams, Russell Jones, Peter Maxwell and Bonnie Nordling to stage readings from a couple of her plays.

Sally writes about what she likes to call "eccentric" people, who either seem to have trouble coping with the ordinary things of life, or else attract events which are not at all ordinary.

Moo features the strange life of Moira (Bonnie), whose husband, Harry (Peter), locks her up in an insane asylum so he can escape her. Earlier in life, her sister (Sally) sort of tries to shoot her, but doesn't quite manage it. Her memories of the event (which she tells us about) are somewhat at odds with the reality (which is acted for us).

In Wasps, Clark takes her audience through the trials and tribulations of a number of strange people. Clark started out this presentation, giving a one-woman reading of several of the sections, most monologues or short dialogues, that would give the audience a sense of the central character's dilemma.

Sally may not have taken up the performing side of the stage as a vocation, but she proved that she knew just how it should be done. Writers often don't read very well, but she picked up numerous compliments on her presentation.

In Wasps the central character is a librarian (a job Clark knows well) whose brand new marriage has brought her sex life to a screaming halt. Her husband, it seems, can only hold up his end of the bargain when he's cheating on someone, and when he was with her before the marriage, it appears he was cheating on a lot of people.

As she comes unglued, she becomes less and less able to deal with the public (some pretty annoying specimens) and is demoted to working as a member of the library police, those stern minions of the public who attempt to reclaim lost and overdue books. This leads to some bizarre situations, but no more bizarre than the events at home, where Kim Adams takes up the role of the central character for a scene with a male in-law (Russell) who has a fetish for women in "sensible" librarian's clothing.

The resulting laughter must have made the tourists ambling along Front Street wonder what the forty or so people squeezed into the deck space were up to.

It proved to be a splendid way to pass an hour or two on a quiet Wednesday evening.

For those who missed this event, it will be repeated at the Westminster Hotel on August 20, Sally will also be doing a presentation at the Museum on August 22.

top.gif

Another Dempster Travels the Yukon

by Dan Davidson


Hugh Dempster wears his family name with pride, just outside the Klondike Sun offices in Dawson City. Photo by Dan Davidson

Hugh Dempster was born in Mayo in 1928 and moved to Dawson around 1930 after his sister was born. The family moved to the lower mainland in 1934, when his father retired.

Hugh is now retired himself, from his career as a computer science professor from UBC, but has continued to travel to the Yukon whenever he can.

After all, how many of us would be able to deny a sentimental connection to a place that has a road named after our father?

William John (Jack) Duncan Dempster was born in 1876 , and came west in 1896/97 after taking his NWMP training in Regina. After a brief posting in Ft. McLeod he was sent to the Klondike, and subsequently bounced all over the territory while rising from Corporal to Inspector.

Hugh has a diary of that trip. His father only seemed to keep journals when he was on the move. Once he settled down anywhere he would not write unless he was on a patrol.

At various times he was stationed at Dalton Post, Tagish, Bennett, Halfway, Bonanza, Caribou, McQuesten, Stewart River, Forty Mile, White River, Rampart House, Dawson and Mayo.

It was in the latter community that he met and married Hugh's mother, a trained nurse from Nova Scotia named Catherine Smith, who had served as a nurse in the Great War. Dempster was part of the hospital committee in Mayo which hired "Smittie", as her friends called her.

Hugh joined the family in 1928 and his sister two years later, after which came the Inspector's final posting in Dawson.

When you check the history books, of course, you find that Corporal Dempster made his mark years before, in 1911, when he led the expedition which determined the fate of the ill-starred "Lost Patrol".

It was neither the first nor the last time that Dempster travelled that route. He did ten patrols in all, and was so associated with the area in many peoples' minds that his name was the obvious choice when it came time to find a name for the new road which the Diefenbaker government decided to build there in the late 1950s.

Says Hugh Dempster, "I guess the Lost Patrol story and the fact that he had travelled that route so many times was what ... caused a group of the old time Yukoners to petition to have it named for him.

"That happened while he was still alive, in the early sixties, before he died in 1964."

When the highway was finally completed Dempster and his sister were invited to attend the opening ceremonies.

By then, however, he had already taken the plunge and returned to the Yukon. Hugh's first trip was in 1972, almost forty years after he left.

"That was an interesting trip because there were still people around who knew the family."

He has been back several times since. One of the things that Hugh has really enjoyed over the years has been meeting people that used to know his family, or descendants of the first nations guides who used to travel with his father.

The younger Dempsters have also had a Yukon itch to scratch.

Eldest daughter, Laurie, took an interest in the territory after that 1972 visit, and was among who participated in the second incarnation of the former residential school in Carcross, when it became an alternative school. While there, she travelled a bit in the territory and met a lot of people connected with the Anglican church. At one function, Laurie met Joe and Annie Henry and they became friends. So taken was she with Annie that when she had a daughter she named her after the Tr'ondek Hwech'in elder.

Dempster and his grand-daughter managed to be present for Joe and Annie's 75th anniversary, celebrated here four years ago.

Another daughter, Beth, has spent several summer working for a tour company, Sea to Sky Trails, that offers trips in the Yukon, and actually led one of the driving treks with day hike side trips that the Dempsters took here. It took Hugh to Herschel Island, where his father had once visited.

On another trip they used his father's diaries to follow the old Yukon Patrol route as a summer hike.

"The year after the Lost Patrol his diaries were quite meticulous and full of little sketch maps. Between those and a topographical map I was able to follow the route quite well," Dempster said.

This year Hugh seized an opportunity to take a canoe and kayak trip down the Yukon River with Len Webster's Sea to Sky outfit, a sixteen day journey which he thoroughly enjoyed.

One of the activities on the trip was to read bits of Yukon writing. Hugh chose passages from Pierre Berton's Drifting Home and some of Robert Service's poems.

And, of course, he thought of his father, now gone these 36 years, but still remembered by his son, who keeps coming back to experience some of his dad's old stomping grounds.

top.gif

Dawson Business Profile: Gold City Tours

by Tara McCauley


Gold City Tours and Gold City Travel operate out of this Front Street building. Photo by Tara McCauley

Gold City Tours was established by Dave "Buffalo" Taylor in 1983. It started as a tour company and Air North agent. In 1990, Gold City Tours expanded to include Gold City Travel (a division of Gold City Tours). The company now employs 11 staff in the summer months and 3 in the winter.

Gold City Tours has been offering a wide range of services to both visitors and locals. They offer tours of the city, Gold Fields, Midnight Dome, King Solomon Dome, step on tours for buses, an Arctic Circle Tour, a charter bus service and an airport shuttle as well as a full service travel agency, headed by Ella Patay.

Originally from Kimberly, BC, Buffalo Taylor spent six years in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand before coming to Dawson in 1972. Prior to starting his own company, he spent several years in the service industry working for Northwestern Accommodation (now known as Westmark Hotels) and Diamond Tooth Gertie's as a dealer then bar manager. He also worked at the Eldorado Hotel as assistant manager and bar manager, and the Downtown Hotel and Gold City Motor Inn as bar manager. When he started Gold City Tours there were no other tour companies in Dawson yet there was a great need for one.

"Dawson is a good place to do business. There is lots of potential in the tourism industry. Tourism is increasing and hopefully the town will grow too. The more the town grows, the more we grow."

Buffalo is very active in the community and has served on the Board of Directors of the KVA, the Marketing and Promotions Committee and Hiring Committee for the KVA as well as the Dawson Chamber of Commerce. He has served on Dawson Volunteer Fire Department for 21 years and for several years has been Deputy Fire Chief and Chairman of the Firefighter's Museum & Restoration Committee. He is also presently on the Board of Directors of the Snowmobile Club.

Before becoming travel manager of Gold City Travel and office manager for Gold City Tours Ella Patay had been in the travel agency business for 7 years. She was born and raised in Alberta. Working for Flight Services within Transport Canada, she was transferred to Dawson in 1979 after doing a stint in Ft. Simpson, NWT. She stayed. It's the northern lifestyle that has her hooked. "I couldn't live in the south now. I like the winter."

Ella enjoys working in Dawson. "I find people are very loyal. We are a small enough business and live in a small enough town that we can provide specialized service. [Customers] appreciate that. You have to put yourself in the customer's shoes to find the best deal you can get. With all the other means of booking travel, we are glad to have the chance to do our best."

top.gif

Dawson Business Profile: The Fashion Nugget

by Tara McCauley


Megan Waterman now works out of her home on Second Avenue. Photo by Tara McCauley

Megan Waterman has fashion in her blood. Growing up in Campbell River, BC, she first started designing and sewing her own clothes in high school from second hand clothing. After a year of traveling in Europe and a year working on a fish farm in Scotland, she moved to Vancouver to pursue a degree in fashion design at Kwantlin University College.

She first came to Dawson to work for the summer in 1996 and loved it. That fall she returned to Vancouver to finish her degree. After graduating in 1997, she came right back up to Dawson with the intention of staying. "I like the community, the whole artistic side and the [period] costumes. There's something to this place."

In the winter of 1997, Megan started designing period ball gowns for women in town. Out of a studio space in the Recycling Depot, she opened Megan à la Mode, doing alterations and design. In April of this year, she opened the Fashion Nugget. Her new location is right next door from the Recycling Depot where she first got her start in Dawson. She was looking for a larger space and when this house went on the market, it was an opportunity she couldn't refuse. With the store in the front and an apartment in the back, it was perfect for her operation.

The Fashion Nugget sells patterns, fabric and supplies for sewing, needlework, and quilting. Megan continues to design and sell her own clothes, and do custom design and alterations. As well, she has begun to do some experimenting in fiber arts, which is the creation of textiles.

She has been very busy. This year she designed, made and services all the costumes for the Gertie's dancers and the Palace Grand cast. She also made all of the decorations for Diamond Tooth Gertie's down to the table covers and fabric liner inside the sound booth.

"There hasn't been a fabric store here in four years. I think because of that people have gotten out of sewing." She plans to change that. "I can help people find what they need, help people who are learning to sew or just help someone if they are stuck." She is also very willing to give mini-lessons to those who might need or want it.

"Dawson is very welcoming. I've had lots of support." Her plans for the future include creating a designer line of Yukon inspired outdoor wear, marketed outside but made in the Yukon. She'd also like to teach some introductory design courses at the Art Society. "That's the novelty of Dawson, you can do anything. It's a blank palette."

top.gif

North Returns to Jack London Centre

by Dan Davidson


Dick North introduces the life and works of Jack London. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dick North loves the Yukon, and while he has moved on to winter in the United States after many years of living in Whitehorse, he was anxious, this summer, to get back to Dawson City and spend at least part of the season celebrating the life and works of Jack London.

He'd missed out last summer due to ill health, but he said he's feeling fine this year and that spending a month in Dawson has really recharged his batteries.

It was North who persuaded the Klondike Visitors Association, back in 1986, to set up a special venue to house his collection of London memorabilia. That first year he worked out of the Klondike Thawing Machine Company building downtown, and directed visitors to be sure and visit the cabin at 8th and Firth that he had been instrumental in authenticating in the mid-1960s.

The next year the KVA erected an attractive log cabin in Jack London Square and North oversaw the outfitting of its three walls with posters, letters, documents, maps and photographs, all of which he uses to tell about London's literary Eldorado.

Some of the people who come to hear him speak and see the exhibit arrive with the mistaken impression that the centre itself is the Jack London Cabin. London and his mining mates should have been so lucky as far as space is concerned, although they'd probably never have been able to heat such a large building.

The actual cabin (well, half of it - the rest is in Oakland, California) sits off to the north of the centre, a tiny building with three small bunks and hardly room for much else, its sod roof showing lots of grass this year. The doors and windows are grated now, after one too many people made off with a bit of their own memorabilia.

When North gives his own Jack London lecture twice daily at the cabin, he doesn't talk a lot about the adventure that led to the cabin's discovery, though he spends a bit of time on the photo of the squared off log on which London, in a self-deprecatory mood, had inscribed "Jack London, miner, author."

The trip to the Klondike had been intended to give him the financial freedom to continue trying to write, but he'd had no success at either calling when he took a pencil to that log wall, and that pun (minor author)was the only thing he wrote while in the Klondike (other than legal documents) until he floated off down the Yukon River and began to keep a journal.

North's talk focuses on his hero, London, his trip to the Klondike, the events that led to the writing of his first novel, The Call of the Wild, and some of the actual places and events that inspired the romantic re-tellings which became part of his other northern novels and his numerous short stories.

He talks about dogs and about how one of the central incidents in the novel takes place right on Dawson's main street. And while it seems fantastic that a dog could have pulled 1,000 pounds, North shows proof of one in Alaska that has pulled 5,000. So truth can be stranger that fiction.

He likes to say of his hero that London had the tools to write with before he came to the Yukon, but nothing to write about.

"He'd written lots ... but he couldn't sell anything," he tells a small audience one day in mid July.

If you want to hear about the finding of the cabin, of the expedition which included the likes of elder Joe Henry (now 102) and Hollywood actor Eddie Albert, you have to come back to the cabin on another day and listen to Dawne Mitchell, who fills the post of interpreter when Dick isn't in town.

They split the summer in half this year, giving North time to travel around a bit, and spend some days in Eagle Plains, fixing up the Mad Trapper and Lost Patrol photo displays that he has set up there. North has written books on both of these subjects, as well as on Jack London.

Dick's mission in Dawson is to talk about London, but Dawne Mitchell firmly believes her mentor deserves a bit of credit himself, for without his work there would be no cabin in the square, no collection, nothing but the Klondike works of Jack London for sale in the gift stores. And that would certainly have been a big loss to the tourist business and the history of the place.

top.gif

Uffish Thoughts: Weird Tales from the Dawson Summer of 2000

by Dan Davidson

Don Cox was going straighten out the Guns and Ammo Building (otherwise known as Strait's Auction House) on Music Festival weekend, but he was worried about the effect his work would have on people attending the Dawson City Music Festival.

"Most of the people who are attending the Music Festival," he told me in a deadpan voice, "when they look at the building they see that it's perfectly straight. And if we straighten it and they look at it, they're going to be worried about it falling over."

He explained, "It's the vibrations off the side of the hill there that does it to the Music Festival guys."

Uh-huh...

So, anyway, they waited until the Festival was over.

Festival goers wouldn't have been the first tourists to be confused by Dawson's perambulating buildings, though. Not the first this year, or any other.

My favorite story along these lines was told me by a member of city council, who would prefer to remain nameless in this matter. Even telling you that it was a "she" won't be a clue, since they're all women except for the mayor.

This councillor was circumnavigating the community at just about the time when the foundation work on the Masonic Lodge (or Carnegie Library - it seems to be a rule that all major landmarks in Dawson have at least two names) was going full bore and the swallows were busy rebuilding their homes after the original lifting and pulling had knocked down those that hadn't been washed off.

She was brought to a halt by the sight of a tour bus (we will not name the company) coming to a stop in the street that the Lodge was blocking. At first she thought that the driver had stopped to show his passengers the odd sight and perhaps the swallows at work too. But then she realized that the bus's horn was honking steadily, and continued to do so for some minutes as she watched.

It was still honking when she pulled away. leaving her with the disquieting feeling that the driver was trying to get the building to move out of the street.

Some of the things that happen to tourists here are our own fault, though. The weird stories come back to haunt us after one too many summer workers finally gets fed up with answering the same question ("When do they turn on the Northern Lights?" What time is the 8 o'clock show at Gerties?") for the thousandth time.

In this case the story that came back to me concerned a bar tender or a waiter (wait-person?) who finally snapped when a visitor asked him or her what we did with the ice bridge in the summer, after expressing some disappointment that it wasn't there to be seen in late June.

Our friendly helper explained that the ice bridge was recycled each year. At the end of the season it was cut up into little numbered sections which every citizen of Dawson took home and stored in their freezers. Just the same way Parks Canada does it when they take down a building. Then, after the ferry comes out in mid October, after it gets cold enough, we all troop down to the river and, under the careful supervision of the highways department, we put all the pieces back where they belong and - voila! - the bridge, she is open once more.

My informant did not tell me whether or not the mark bought it, but hey, stranger tales have been swallowed hook, line and sinker by larger groups of people.

top.gif

Klondike Sun Home Page